The German „Serengeti“ – large-scale grazing with Heck-cattle in Thuringia


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Workshop to review work on livestock grazing and nature conservation in Europe

Organised by EFNCP, Bunde Wischen and Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein a workshop to review the work on livestock grazing and nature conservation in Europe was held in August 2022 in Eggebek in North Germany.

Eggebek, Schleswig-Holstein, 13 – 14 August 2022

Purpose of the workshop:

  • To review the link between livestock grazing and nature conservation
  • To bring together conservation practitioners, researchers and staff of public organisations
  • To help build up a good theoretical and practical knowledge base for how livestock grazing can support the preservation of biodiversity in Europe
  • To contribute to public discussions on the design and planning of the proposed EU nature restoration law

These issues were approached first and foremost in the context of the situation in Germany, particularly in the northern Länder.

  • To set the scene Jan-Erik Petersen (EEA) talked about European and national perspectives by giving a review of the EU policy context, focusing on the two key initiatives Farm-to-Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy 2030. He pointed out the need to feed technical knowledge into EU policy and targets and to ensure that key stakeholders and policy makers are aware of the importance of extensive grazing for achieving EU nature conservation goals.
  • Gwyn Jones (EFNCP) spoke about trends in extensive grazing systems in Europe. He set out how semi-natural vegetation abundance in agricultural land has decreased with a push towards intensification and abandonment in all regions. He then presented data on estimated grazing needs of habitats dependent on extensive agricultural practices (so-called ‘Halada’ habitats) in relation to Corine land cover data with potential grazing using Spain as an example. (Download PDF)
  • Herbert Nickel (Naturnahe Weidelandschaften e.V.) gave an overview of large-scale year-round conservation grazing projects in Germany and showed research results that show an increase in biodiversity through extensive grazing. He then talked about visions and problems regarding extensive grazing in Germany concluding that a standardised survey is needed for future strategies. (Download PDF)
  • Julia Wiese (EFNCP/Bunde Wischen eG) shared the results of a survey about the status quo of conservation grazing in Lower Saxony in Germany. The study results were based on a questionnaire asking multiple questions regarding conservation grazing (e.g., location and size of grazed area, vegetation types, animal species and breeds, grazing period, financing, problems, success evaluation).(Download PDF)
  • Liga Gavare (Latvian Fund for Nature) gave an insight into different grassland conservation and restoration projects in Latvia. She showed how grassland is restored within the programs GrassLIFE, LIFE MarshMeadows and WoodMeadowLIFE.
  • Veronika Breuer (Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein) spoke about the strategy and goals of the foundation. More than half of the 38,000 hectares owned by the foundation, which provide refuge for threatened species and habitats, are managed through extensive grazing. (Download PDF)
  • Gerd Kämmer (Bunde Wischen eG) and Gudrun Beuck (Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein) gave an introduction to the ‘Winderatter See’, the location of the field trip. This is a site of ca 100 ha consisting of a central lake surrounded by reedbeds, some small forest areas and a range of wet and dry semi-natural grassland habitats which are extensively grazed. The excursion and the general experience of both organising bodies showed that year-round as well as seasonal grazing (depending on site conditions) are very suitable management tools for maintaining or creating species-rich semi-natural habitats. (Download PDF)

The presentations and the excursion generated an active exchange between the participants which included the following points:

  • How to maintain attention among policy makers for the relevance of grazing as a nature conservation management tool;
  • The need to further explore the overlap and differences of active grazing projects with the re-wilding concept;
  • How to develop a more comprehensive overview of extensive grazing areas and practices (both as part of farming activity and as a conservation tool) at country and EU levels;
  • What are the best opportunities for achieving recognition and support for grazing approaches in the context of the finalisation and implementation of the proposed EU Nature Restoration Law;
  • How to build a more active network of grazing practitioners within and across countries and whether to organise further expert meetings for grazing experts in other regions of Europe.

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European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Date: 2024/07/19
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